Math degrees generally require 120 credits and cover applied mathematics, discrete mathematics, and other math and numbers-oriented coursework and curriculum. Students interested in pursuing a career in mathematics must first select a math degree program that aligns with their goals. Some considerations include evaluating interests and program types and learning more about how different math degrees translate to real-world occupations. In general, a math degree positions graduates for successful, high-paying careers in a field that is growing more quickly than many other occupations1.
This guide provides a math degree overview for those interested in pursuing higher education programs in theoretical or applied math, as well as related disciplines and possible careers.
What Is a Math Degree?
A math degree typically requires students to complete 120 credits to complete the degree. Type of math degrees generally include applied mathematics, discrete mathematics, and other math and numbers-oriented coursework and curriculum. Most programs differentiate between pure math or applied mathematics — one being more theoretical, the other being more practical. Pursuing a math degree requires problem-solving skills, analytical abilities, and the ability to focus on details. Students exploring mathematics degrees generally receive a bachelor of science degree in mathematics. The programs require critical thinking and an ability to communicate with clarity and logic. In general, mathematics graduates possess strong critical thinking, creative, and quantitative reasoning skills.
How Can I Use a Math Degree?
Mathematics majors go on to work in fields such as finance, higher education, K-12 education, and biotech. Many math majors find jobs as research analysts, educators, statisticians, mathematicians, or actuaries. Generally, math degree programs provide students with the skills needed to pursue careers with intellectual and problem-solving demands.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in math are expected to grow 28% between 2020 to 2030, which translates into the expected addition of about 67,000 new jobs1. BLS data also reports a median annual salary of $93,170 for math occupations, which is nearly double the average for all occupations1. In particular, industries including government and business need support from those with mathematics backgrounds for analytical and big data roles.
Some high-paying mathematics jobs and careers include:
- College Math Professor
- Market Research Analyst
- Aerospace Engineer
- Financial Analyst
- Data Scientist
Math Degree Program Courses
Math degrees emphasize coursework studying the relationships that numbers have with different patterns and equations. Most math majors take courses in algebra, calculus, statistics, computer science, variables, and geometry. Mathematics majors can major in pure mathematics or applied mathematics or even engineering or statistics and technology. The best types of mathematic degree programs allow students to choose various specializations in areas like discrete mathematics, physics, mechanics, or even chemistry or accounting. Students who focus on a niche area develop strong skills and are prepared for jobs in certain sectors needing specific types of mathematics knowledge such as accounting or finance.
Math degree programs require a comprehensive curriculum that builds upon previous knowledge. Students take classes in linear algebra, multivariable analysis, calculus, advanced linear algebra, discrete mathematics, modern combinatorics, and other such coursework. Some colleges and universities may offer students a choice between a bachelor of arts in mathematics or a bachelor of science, each holding different expectations depending on the student’s interests. A good component of those undergraduate degree courses focuses on general education or core requirements of the university or college. All mathematics graduates complete a form of an internship, publication of research, thesis, capstone, or culminating experience at the end of their degree to illustrate their command and mastery of the discipline.
Math Degree Concentrations
The bachelor of arts degree covers more general math classes, including liberal arts and theoretical coursework. Students explore interdisciplinary mathematics fields, such as physics, accounting, geometry, calculus, economics, statistics, and analytics, perhaps with concentrations in more than one math-focused area. The bachelor of arts degree approach varies from one institution to another. However, this degree type generally provides the students with more room for free electives, allowing them to potentially opt into a second major. The bachelor of arts is also an ideal choice for those who have completed many of their undergraduate studies courses in other disciplines to still graduate with a math major. Math courses begin at the foundational level and build upon previous coursework, so students may consider taking the principles and earlier courses when looking at pursuing the higher-level classes and declaring math as their major, whether a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts.
The bachelor of science degree emphasizes a traditional math curriculum and analytical coursework. Students take courses more within the math department rather than exploratory coursework in different disciplines. The bachelor of science degree in mathematics often lets students focus on applied mathematics, computing, physics, or one specific subset of math and positions them for success at the graduate level for mathematics degrees. Bachelor of science degrees prepare students for math-oriented careers and require more intensive science coursework in the natural sciences and physical sciences.
Possible math concentrations or degree emphasis areas include:
- Algebra and number theory
- Analysis and function analysis
- Applied mathematics
- Geometry/geometric analysis
- Mathematics and statistics
- Topology and foundations
Many schools boast an area of expertise within their math department. Reach out to admissions counselors, faculty, and staff, as well as academic advisors regarding the type of math program best suited to you and your interests.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Math Degree?
Math degrees generally require a minimum of four years of full-time study, depending on if a student has dual enrollment credits, AP credits, or other additional requirements. Students interested in pursuing education or teaching credentials may need additional hours to graduate, along with any required teaching hours. Double majors and minors may add more time to completing their degree. For those interested in analytics and applied mathematics or professorship, additional degrees might be required, and students may go on to master’s-level and doctoral-level of study, each requiring additional years of coursework to complete their graduate-level math degree.
Discover More About Math Degrees and Programs
Q. What is the application process for enrolling in an undergraduate math degree program?
To enroll in an undergraduate math degree program, students must first be accepted into a university or college’s undergraduate school. Some math degrees have cohorts, where students first take general education and core classes as well as elementary math and then apply specifically for the math degree major program. Others simply ask students to sign up for the initial math classes needed, allowing students to enter the math program as long as they achieve certain grades within the major’s required core classes. All math degrees expect students to take calculus, linear algebra, and differential analytical courses and may need students to pass entrance exams or placement exams before being admitted into the program.
Q. Are scholarships available for mathematics degree programs?
Students can receive eligibility for scholarships by filing their financial needs, proving strong command of the subject matter, and receiving certain admissions test score results. Essays, relationships, work-study, and teaching assistantships may all provide opportunities for students to receive other financial support while they pursue their degrees.
Q. Are accelerated math degrees available?
Students can explore online accelerated programs as well as technical programs and certifications to further improve their skills when pursuing math occupations and careers. When considering accelerated programs, review the instructors, course objectives, and learning goals to ensure they align with your own goals.
Q. Are online courses or online programs available for math degrees?
Prospective candidates should reach out to individual schools to determine virtual and online learning options. Some programs may provide accelerated summer coursework online, while other universities and institutions are solely in-person or only available virtually. Some institutions offer hybrid opportunities where classes meet in-person less regularly, or a certain number of courses are online versus offline. Many online courses come in accelerated formats and allow synchronous and asynchronous learning, which are great for those needing flexibility.
Q. How should I choose a math career or degree?
Students can start by taking a few introductory courses, interviewing professionals already working in the field, talking with professors, and reading overviews of various degree programs and their areas of emphasis. Different degrees will highlight faculty who are experts with different niches, the degree’s ability to match with different career paths and help students pursue their math interests while simultaneously providing them with career options.
Q. What are the most common career paths for those who hold math degrees?
Many graduates of mathematics degree programs pursue jobs in academic, research, or analytical roles. Additional jobs include statisticians, research analysts, accountants, and actuaries, as well as careers in finance, economics, and banking. Less common careers for math graduates or those with some mathematics background involve jobs as engineers, teachers, meteorologists, and marketing analysts.
Q. Is it necessary to study mathematics at the graduate level?
It depends. A master’s degree in mathematics at the graduate level is ideal for individuals seeking to go into research, higher education, and high-level data analytics roles. Considering career paths can help you determine if a graduate-level degree is required. Many jobs do not require graduate-level work. However, additional education and training often correlate with higher salaries, promotions, and leadership roles within companies. Many employers may also offer tuition reimbursement for graduate-level work.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Math Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/home.htm